For the first time in history, the 1st – 7th of February 2021 is being observed as Race Equality Week, here in the UK. A time where organisations and individuals across the UK, unite to address Race in the workplace.
The events of 2020, more specifically the Black Lives Matter movement, coupled with the disproportionate impact of COVID on ethnic minority communities, have intensified public consciousness of race inequality yet, black representation at the top of FTSE 100 companies is at a whopping zero.
The main aim of this initiative is to create a different environment for race relations and improve racial equality in the workplace. One that builds a permanent bridge between decision making and our lived experience.
As we near the end of the first Race Equality Week, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on my own personal experiences of working in the PR and communications industry as a young black woman, and my personal perspective on the industry’s progress to date towards achieving diversity and inclusion.
Representation of black PR professionals has increased over the last few years, however there is still much more that can be done to remove racial barriers in the industry and attract more ethnic minority talent.
After securing my first role, I learnt very quickly that as a young black woman, I had to adopt a work personality to survive in the workplace, as there were not many individuals who I could identify with. I have always appreciated the importance of networking, but I found myself looking for networking events specifically for ethnic minorities, to boost my chances of meeting other black PR professionals in senior leadership positions.
It’s important that everyone is able to feel comfortable in their workplace and this is why representation matters. Individuals do not want to feel as though they are the token hire in their organisation, simply hired to fill a diversity quota. It shows, and it is an uncomfortable experience.
Since joining Stand, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with great colleagues, from all corners of the UK and other parts of the world. I also feel comfortable having open, honest and sometimes awkward conversations about race, with the hope to move the industry in the right direction.
The communications sector can do more to ensure those from diverse backgrounds working in the industry feel heard, valued and included. Anonymised recruitment processes should be utilised by more organisations, to mitigate unconscious bias against individuals with ethnic names who may otherwise not make it to interview stage.
It is important to acknowledge that race equality is fundamental to having a truly inclusive and productive organisation. A diverse team will ultimately bring something different to the workplace and in turn, influence the type of work delivered to clients. This is why the work that Race Equality Week is doing is so important, appreciated and needed.
Here are some options, developed by Race Equality Week in collaboration with ethnic minority stakeholders, that are available and can make a real impact. Organisations can work with Race Equality Week to implement a Safe Space for conversations between their ethnic minority employees and senior leadership team members and ensure these conversations are turned into actions. They can make a measurable, public commitment with The Big Promise, to action, not words to help create a positive change. And to show commitment and encourage others, organisations can display the Race Equality Virtual Badge on their social media profiles and marketing materials.